Maybe it has been a while since you thought about a French Kiss, but if you have a sweet tooth of any sort, perhaps now’s the time.
Are you confused? Well, if you know pastry chef Jacque Ladnier and have ever been in one of her four locations where French Kiss Pastries cakes, pies, cookies and so much more are sold, then you know she is a master of her trade.
Ladnier, who doesn’t like to be called a chef (although if she isn’t one, then I don’t know any one who deserves the title), got an interesting start.
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She took a cake decorating class with her mother, and she describes it more as a lark than an attempt to learn a trade, but she did have a knack for it.
“I just wanted to spend some time with my mom,” she said, “but pretty soon my friends started asking me to make birthday cakes for them.”
And that was the beginning.
The birthday cakes turned into other pastries and something sweet for the kids, but when people saw what she could do with a wedding cake, well, the deal was done.
Her first shop was in Vieux Marche in Biloxi, but after about six months, she moved to her current location on Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs.
To say that location has been successful is an understatement.
“You’d have to handcuff me, kicking and screaming, to leave Washington Avenue,” Ladnier said.
If you visit the shop, especially in the morning and around noon, it is nonstop customers coming in to get a cup of coffee (locally roasted at Coast Roast Coffee in Long Beach), a breakfast pastry or a chicken salad sandwich and a cup of soup for lunch.
Apron Strings, 434 Porter Ave., Ocean Springs, is the main production facility but also has a retail sales counter.
French Kiss, Biloxi
French Kiss pastries are sold at the Edgewater Mall food court.
French Kiss, Long Beach
The shop is on Jeff Davis Avenue.
Let’s get back to those wedding cakes.
“Most people just go for the basic 8-inch cake,” Ladnier said.
But when they want something special, well that’s when this chef starts to shine.
I saw a cake that looked exactly like a Yeti cooler, along with two cans of Sprite. No kidding, they looked real.
The list of specialty cakes Ladnier has created is long.
“Let’s see, I’ve made a battleship, footballs, a cake that looks like a pot of boiled crawfish, ladies’ purses, cartoon figures and puppy dogs.” And that is only a partial list.
It is hard to imagine Ladnier is self-taught, other than one cake decorating class, especially after seeing some of her work.
All she will say about her talent is, “You have got to have a lot of patience, and cold hands.”
Cold hands? Yep, chocolate and frosting will melt very quickly when handled by hot fingers.
“I can’t draw a stick man with a pencil or pen,” she said, but when it comes to icing, she is magical.
Specialty cakes and magical creations are just a part of the business.
Breakfast is bread and butter
Breakfast pastries, cookies, brownies and cupcakes are the bread and butter of French Kiss Pastries.
Best sellers, Ladnier said, are “chocolate croissants and apple turnovers.”
Other top picks include Bavarians, tiramisu, fresh fruit cakes, German chocolate, red velvet, buttermilk chocolate with raspberries, Italian cream, eclairs and gelato. She also sells a lot of coffee, including iced coffee, basic drip coffee, latte and espressos.
“We probably sell a cup of coffee to almost every single customer that walks in,” Ladnier said.
There is something magical in general about a really good pastry shop. Sit around and watch customers come in, the new ones tend to whisper, as if expressing their desire for something so sweet needs privacy.
Hands in front of their mouths, they sigh, “Oh my, look at that!”
Old hands come in and go directly to their favorites, looking guiltily at things they intend to try one day, but that one sweet, maybe the Italian cannoli or the cream-filled Bavarian, just calls their name, and they can’t resist ordering it again and again.
If you go
What: Apron Strings, 434 Porter Ave, Ocean Springs; French Kiss Pastries Ocean Springs, 714 Washington Ave, Ocean Springs; French Kiss Pastries Long Beach, 126 Jeff Davis Ave, Long Beach; French Kiss Pastries Biloxi, Edgewater Mall food court, 2600 Beach Blvd., Biloxi
French Kiss Pecan Bites
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup melted butter
Combine all the ingredients, and mix well. Pour into a small muffin molds, but only 3/4 full. Bake at 350 f for 18 minutes. Remove the bites immediately from the mold, or they will stick.